Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ★★★★½

Indiana Jones on steroids. A film so batshit bonkers and outrageously implausible it turns overbearing into a godsend virtue. If the quieter moments of RAIDERS ever lulled even in the slightest, Spielberg double downs this time with a megaphone, a hammer, and a never-ending list of thrills, frills and tall-tale kills. Check out the appetizers on this skeleton-infested menu: Slimy snakes, fried beetles, eye ball soup, chilled monkey brains and we're just warming things up. Shuttle over to the the main course and yeah, we've got black magic, pagan rituals, human sacrifices, child sweatshops, death by lava, alligators and a nasty crushing machine, not to mention a villain who rips out human hearts and a hero who drinks voodoo blood and goes menacingly gonzo. This puppy was PG in 1984!?!? LMAO. Makes you wonder if DOOM was indeed the straw that broke the MPAA's back and led to the creation of the PG-13 rating. I hear that GREMLINS was another reason the U.S. rating system was capsized, but let's not digress. DOOM is the greatest and darkest parody of the Indy franchise, and I really can't stop chuckling over the families who took their children to see this ghoulish blockbuster hoping for something kid friendly. It's almost as good as the date night couples who went to see mother! opening night hoping to see a psychological thriller. LOL.

Say goodbye to the sincerity of RAIDERS, say hello to the morbidly crackerjack world of DOOM. Nevermind realism or believability, this kind of storytelling doesn't require it. It only has to take the sledgehammer of excess to our skulls and shoot us down a mine-shaft rollercoaster of non-stop adventure for the spell to work its charm. For some this will be too much, for others, like me, this is precisely what makes it great. DOOM is different than anything in the Indy universe because of how darkly hyperbolic and supremely inflated the storytelling and characters really are. We're warned from the very beginning that "anything goes," which in this cartoon world means wildly swinging from one comic exaggeration to the next, never really having a moment to put the brakes on its runaway pacing. The great thing about all this chaos? It's enormously funny and entertaining, an achievement Spielberg tried and failed at doing in 1941 but totally bullseyes here. The more insane each set piece is, the funnier the film becomes. Pauline Kael, for once, gets it right: "Nobody has ever fused thrills and laughter in quite the way that [Spielberg] does here. He starts off at full charge in the opening sequence and just keeps going. There isn't a letdown anywhere in it." 

DOOM is the stuff of Saturday morning serials amped "up to eleven," says my buddy Nolan. The whole movie is designed to keep us laughing at how absurd and preposterous everything is, and that's what makes it glorious. It's the thrills and spectacular stunts that keep it moving, fueled by the charm of Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), the side-kick-y laughs of Jonathan Ke Quan (Short Round), and the relentless screams of Kate Capshaw (Willie Scott). Charges of misogyny against her character are tone deaf at best, silly at worst. This is childhood Spielberg simply terrorizing Capshaw as if she was one of his own kid sisters, in effect eulogizing the family joke for the big screen. The film is constantly making fun of itself by speeding towards increasingly caricatured heights, and I'd go one step further adding that not even since the era of serials has a story been so brazenly aware of its own foolishness. Spielberg carelessly yet masterfully hurdles us from one breathtaking piece of spectacle to another, climaxing with a bridge-collapsing finale so hilarious it borders into self-parody. Easily some of the best slapstick comedy the cinema has seen since Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Sometimes the purpose of cinema is found in its frivolity. Sometimes superabundance is the key to unlocking mountains of sheer delight. DOOM expertly combines both and makes for one hell of a ride.


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